Lindsey McEwan has played with gender her whole life. Growing up in Duncan, B.C. she remembers dressing androgynously and often getting misidentified as a girl; it never bothered her. It wasn't until she turned 53 when she realized she needed to take action.
"My psychologist asked me how it made me feel when I would get mistaken as a woman in a grocery store or coffee shop," recalls Lindsey.
"I said it made me feel great. That's when I realized I couldn't live my life as a male anymore."
Lindsey wanted her appearance to match how she felt on the inside, so shortly afterwards, she started hormone therapy and underwent facial feminization procedures. But there was one aspect of her transition that still bothered her. "As I started to feminize and the real me started to appear, the other things that didn't change fast enough, like my voice, made me feel crappy."
In August 2021, Lindsey started a one-month intensive speech and voice feminization training program offered by
Trans Care BC called
Changing Keys. It's the only publicly-funded program of its kind in B.C. that supports trans people with changing their speech. Started in 2004, the program supports approximately 80 people each year.
"It's been wonderful to be a part of people's transition journey," says Lucas Wilson, program coordinator with Trans Care BC. "Many people are excited to access the program since it's so unique. We're happy to provide it as a resource for folks."
Pre-pandemic, participants met as a group and worked with a certified speech language pathologist (SLP) on exercises and voice theory. Staff would take voice measurements of participants at the beginning and end of the program to monitor how their voices changed over time.
Today, the program has been adapted and participants now meet with their SLP on a one-on-one basis online.
"The advantage of virtual sessions is that our participants have found it easier to commit to the program since they don't have to commute," Lucas explains. "Additionally, we can now offer the program to people in rural areas."
Over the course of Lindsey's online sessions with her teacher, Lindsey practiced simple exercises to help reach her voice goal.
"The biggest thing is to record everything you do, listen to it, and repeat it again and again," says Lindsey. "I used to practice two to three times a day. It's a lifelong process and you need to train your muscle memory."
Lindsey describes her voice change as remarkable and credits Changing Keys for the transformation. Now, even her mother has trouble discerning between her and her sister's voice.
"Voice is a big part of my transition journey. I can communicate way more now with voice because of my inflections and my better understanding of emotional content."
If you're interested in learning more about gender diversity or creating gender-affirming environments, consider registering for Trans Care BC's
Almost 15,000 individuals have completed the courses since their launch in 2019.